In therapy today, I was talking about being sick. That’s a lot of what I talk about in therapy lately. Part of me feels like I’m just whining and should shut up about it already, but I also know it’s a big adjustment for me, and it relates back to old abuse and neglect stuff.
I said I’ve had this urge a lot lately to just quit taking my meds because I don’t want to have to deal with being sick anymore. A thought I meant there was a child’s magical thought process of “If I stop taking my meds and seeing the doctor, that means I’m not sick anymore, so I’ll feel better.” I told her that wasn’t quite it. She thought I meant denial, but that’s not quite it either. I don’t know quite what it is, but I know a fair bit about what it’s not.
I told her it’s too much like the way I felt when I was abused: something is happening to my body that I can’t control, I’m in pain, and I can’t do anything to stop it. I know the situations aren’t really that similar–my father and a disease process aren’t very similar (except metaphorically). I think it’s the element of helplessness that links them for me.
“I want somebody else to take care of me,” I said.
I have a lot of shame around that, layers and layers of it. My mother always acted like I was making outrageous demands when I need or wanted her care. My father was more responsive and caring, but he was also raping me. As an adult, my desire to be taken care of makes me feel too needy, and receiving care puts me in the mental state of wondering when I’ll have to pay for it with by enduring sex or violence.
“That’s normal,” A said. “Everyone wants to be taken care of.”
She had no idea how much I needed to hear that. It sounds crazy, but I don’t think anyone ever told me that before. I honestly thought I was abnormal for wanting that as an adult. I still do, to some extent, but less.
A asked me what being taken care of would look like to me, and I had no idea, crazy as that sounds. It’s this nebulous concept in my mind: I want someone outside myself to do something that makes me feel better, but concretely I have no idea.
“What about B?” she asked me. “If he just put his arms around you and held you, would that feel like being taken care of?”
“No,” I said, probably too quickly and too emphatically. “I don’t like being touched most of the time, and it’s even worse when I’m sick. I mean, yeah, there’s a part of me that wants that, but it never ends up feeling good to me. I don’t even want to be around other people or talk to them when I’m sick. It’s caused some tension in our relationship, actually.”
I left the session without really understanding what was going on, frustrated and tense because I still didn’t know what “being taken care of” actually means.
There is a weird dualism about touch. In my fantasies of being taken care of, I want to be hugged and held and touched in ways that aren’t threatening, but in reality, almost any touch feels threatening to me. Nonsexual touch feels like a lead-in to abuse, or it feels unpredictable because I don’t know if or when the touch will turn abusive. I didn’t have any healthy models of what it’s like to be taken care of, so I know I have this abstract desire, but I have no idea what it would look like.
Defining it has been on my mind the rest of the day. I had this English professor, an Irish guy, who drilled into us, “Define your terms!” That keeps running through my head in his Irish brogue. The closest I’ve come to a conclusion is that this comes from child parts. I/They/We want to be taken care of back then–when you’re always reliving traumas in a loop, you don’t need a time machine. But me–and possibly other older parts–are too guarded to allow it or feel comfortable with it.
Ultimately, I think what I mean when I say I want to be be taken care of is that I want to be saved. I want somebody safe to appear, to rescue me from each trauma, and to take care of me like someone should’ve back then. That’s impossible, of course, and it’s incredibly painful to know that. Nobody saved me then, and you can’t rewrite the past. And the only one who can save me now is me, and I desperately want somebody else to do it because I feel too small and helpless. I’m the children and the adults at the same time, and every self hurts almost unbearably right now.